Whitney review is complete

Yale students earning degrees through the special students program will have access to Yale financial aid next year, based on a review of the program that also reaffirmed its high standard for admission.

The review committee, which was convened last April to evaluate the purpose and admissions standards for Yale’s special student programs, focused its proposals on the degree-granting Eli Whitney Students Program. The reforms — which will be implemented for students accepted for next year’s program — open financial aid, the Yale health plan and other resources to Whitney students for the first time, and make it possible for them to enroll as full-time students. Students and administrators reacted favorably to the review and said they it help solve some existing problems with the Whitney program.

Yale President Richard Levin issued a statement to the University’s nontraditional student community on Monday describing the committee’s main conclusions.

Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he is pleased with the results of the review, particularly the decision to award financial aid to Eli Whitney students.

“I very much appreciate the thoughtfulness of the committee that reviewed the Eli Whitney and Non-Degree Student Programs,” Salovey said in an e-mail. “I am especially pleased that beginning with the cohort of students entering in the fall of 2007, we will be able to offer financial aid to Eli Whitney students with demonstrated need.”

Astronomy and physics professor Charles Bailyn, who served on the committee, said that as a result of the changes, Eli Whitney students will be treated like other Yale undergraduates — held to the same admissions standards and allowed to enroll full-time. He said he hopes the reforms will address Whitney students’ concerns that they are alienated from the Yale community and limited by their ineligibility for financial aid. Once the changes are implemented, the only significant difference between experiences of the two groups is that Whitney students will not live in the residential colleges, which Bailyn said is not a problem since many of the Whitney students are older and have families.

The Whitney program — which currently consists of fewer than 30 students, according to Eli Whitney Student Association President Carolyn Brokowski ’07 — admits students whose family or job responsibilities prevented them from completing their college educations in a traditional timeframe. These nonresident students may enroll in Yale classes for credit, taking at least three per calendar year, and have typically earned their degrees within seven years of their initial enrollment.

Brokowski said the Whitney students are generally pleased with the committee’s reforms.

“The financial aid speaks to the Yale administration’s demonstrated commitment to ameliorating some of the policies that have been a hindrance to the students, not just the [Whitney student] community but the actual functioning of the program,” she said. “We’re very much looking forward to working with the Yale administration over the next several months and years.”

Eli Whitney student Brooks Prouty ’07 said the expanded financial aid will likely expand the applicant pool for the program. In the past, Whitney students have struggled to integrate into the larger Yale community, he said, and the report moves toward embracing them as true Yale students.

Whitney students said they had suggestions for further reforms to the programs. Brokowski said it would be valuable for Yale to provide faculty advisers for students in their first year of the program, comparable to the existing freshman and sophomore advising programs. Currently, residential college deans are academic advisers for the Whitney students.

Prouty also said he would appreciate Yale allowing Whitney students to affiliate with all 12 residential colleges. Although they do not live in Yale housing, each student is currently affiliated with one of five colleges: Calhoun, Berkeley, Stiles, Morse or Timothy Dwight.

Yale College Assistant Dean William Whobrey said the committee has not yet made any recommendation as to the future size of the Eli Whitney Students Program. While the applicant pool will likely grow because of the financial aid initiative, faculty and administrators will continue to study the appropriate size for the program over the next few years, he said.

Last year, Yale accepted two out of 29 applicants to the Whitney program.

The review of the special students programs was prompted largely by the controversy over the admission of former Taliban spokesman Rahmatullah Hashemi into the Non-Degree Students Program in summer 2005. Alumni and some national media accused Yale of lowering its admissions standards to accommodate Hashemi, who ended his formal education after fourth grade and later passed a high school equivalency test.

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